Thursday, January 31, 2013

End Of January Thaw

We are in the 50's for the second day in a row. In Maine. It rained all night and most of the snow we had is now gone.  See the green grass?  In January.  This picture was taken with my new camera.  I got close.  And it stayed in focus.  That was one of the things my old camera was finding it hard to do.  Focus.  The foliage behind the orchid branch are Paperwhite leaves.  I cut the flowers off.  Too fragrant (stinky) for me to enjoy.  But the leaves?  Yes, please.  I just keep the roots well watered and I have foliage for weeks and weeks.

The bananas were almost brown enough, so I made banana bread today.  I also mixed the zucchini shreds (salted and squeezed dry-ish) with a very generous "cup" of shredded mozzarella and an egg. Made what the original recipe writer called "dough" but is actually just a mess that I form, on parchment, into a flattened rectangle.  Pressed and straightening the edges and flatten etc and then I bake it at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and let it cool a bit and then peel off the parchment, turn it over , back on the parchment and back in the oven to bake again.  Nicely browned, not burnt.  And it serves as a lovely GF pizza crust.  Later, when I bake G's pizza I will add toppings to mine and bake it again. I bake it twice so the crust is stiff.  The original is squishy when baked only once.  Let it cool before adding toppings.

I searched the internet after I posted yesterday and found a British site with Jamie Oliver's mushroom risotto and I had everything (we opened a bottle of white wine) for the recipe, so I made it.  I think the rice could have been cooked a bit (just a bit) longer.  It was al dente.  Which I think it is supposed to be.  I added plenty of butter, some nicely fried sliced fresh mushrooms and Parm at the very end (as Jamie directs).  It looked good.  G ate it and even had seconds.  And he had a very large salad which he enjoyed.  I added honey to the olive oil and Balsamic dressing.

 Never having eaten proper risotto, I have no way of knowing if it was well prepared.  And I only tasted a teaspoon for reference.  Arborio Rice (from Italy) is not on my diet plan.  Yes, I had some in the cupboard.  I also had a packet of dry Porcini mushrooms.  If you like risotto, Jamie's recipe (30 minute meals) is very easy and will take about 30 minutes.  I made the salad after getting the risotto cooked.  Next time I would make the salad first but dress it after.  I had salad and the take-home part of my Italian restaurant dinner.

Wednesday is a very piss poor evening for watching television. I finished the two books I had from the library.  One day for each.  And I didn't start reading until after 4 pm and was in bed by 11.  And I watched television.  They just don't write books like they used to.  Now I have two more and one is very thick and has lots of words.  Elizabeth George.  I rarely make it through one of her books.  I get tired.  Any reading suggestions????

I finished writing one of the gardening classes.  The second is the harder of the two and I need to do more research.  Another trip to the library or more research on the internet.  Roses.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The New Camera Has Arrived

And we had to go out (last night) and buy a memory card for it in order to try it out.  Still haven't tried it out.  So I don't know if it's a keeper yet.  It's the same Fuji FinePix as my old camera.  The little icons look the same.  And it makes movies.  Not that I will ever do any of the special things this camera can do.  I will point, shoot, download and delete.  But now I can get closer.  So much closer.

I'm not a picture saver anymore.  Though I am thinking I would like to see my blog posts (with pictures) in a book format.  Not all of them.  I would have to sort through and from what I gather it's quite a bit of work.  You know how I feel about computer work.  Not a fan.

I have two gardening classes to research, sort, write and type into a nice presentation.  Sooner.  Much sooner than I want it to be. Being a Master Gardener isn't all fun and games, there is the annual 20 hours of volunteer work. Where does my pajama winter go??? And I haven't even begun to procrastinate on the taxes yet.

I have considered starting on the painting of the window trim in the bedrooms.  Primer at least.  And I was also thinking of repainting the ceilings in the living room.  They have that new paint now that goes on blue so you can see any spots you miss.  I used the wrong paint last time I painted the ceilings. Not flat enough.  And all the living room trim needs a repaint.  In bright white.  Or a brighter white.  To contrast with the Faux Italian finish I gave the walls so many years ago when I actually did things like paint the walls the week before a huge party.  I used a technique I had never tried before.  The first wall and the last are very different.  And are next to each other.

We had dinner out last night.  G's favorite Italian spot. He had veal saltimboca with a side of penne carbonara.  AKA: heart attack on a plate.  Then cheesecake.  He wants me to make mushroom risotto  for dinner tonight.  I have never made risotto of any kind.  He saw it on one of the Jamie Oliver 30 Minute Meal recordings I have on TiVo.  Jamie made it look easy.  I already made pizza dough for tomorrow's dinner (G's) so I have time, after writing and typing one class, to make something for today.

It's 50 degrees or warmer today.  The weather fluctuations here (and everywhere else) are quite alarming.  This is two very unseasonable periods in one month.  Sixty degrees plus about 2 weeks ago and now this. Very, very bad for our plants, trees and shrubbery.  At least the furnace isn't running.

Well, I have things to do and less time than I need so I am going to say farewell for today.  Wish me luck with dinner.  At least there will be a green salad.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

And Then, It Snowed, Again.

My deck chair.  Coated in newly fallen snow.  I have used this photo before but it expresses my feelings this morning better than a new photo of the few inches of snow that fell last night.  And I am anticipating the arrival of the new camera. New photographs.  Soon, I hope.

We have a new flat screen.  Samsung 32 inch.  Beautiful picture clarity and G has managed to tone down the colors to suit me.  All the advertised products look exactly like they do in my fridge.  I rewatched my TiVo'ed copy of Eat, Pray, Love last night.  It did look nicer on the full screen.  I know G would prefer the screen to be larger.  That's the way men are built.  The energy ticket we peeled off the television says the annual energy cost will be $7.  Our 1988 Sony could heat up the room with an evenings viewing.  Yes, we were watching on a 1988 set.  Still worked, good picture, why change?

Are you watching the new Fox program, The Following?  We are.  It's not as scary as I thought it would be but it has possibilities.  Good villain.  And Kevin Bacon.  I have all of this season of Fringe to watch.  I am saving it in case I get the flu.  Sad to think it is finished.  BBCAmerica has been a disappointment with only 4 to 6 episodes of any of the evening Dramaville programs.  Luther was excellent.  The Hour was pretty good (sort of the 50's version of Mad Men in style).  Ripper Street is awful.  I had big hopes for Law and Order UK but I watched too much of the American version and remember the plot by the first commercial.  And the wigs........ not a fan.

This year, 2013, is turning out to be a year of many NEW things.  Retirement.  Medicare.  Social Security.  Refrigerators.  Flat Screen Television.  Camera.  And it's still only January!!!!!  My daughter is also experiencing this "change" with her NEW television, a NEW exercise video, NEW camera and a positive view of taking our old desk cabinets and countertop for re-use in her kitchen.  She even, really, liked the rolling restaurant cart in my kitchen and is buying one (in white) for her kitchen to slide in alongside HER fridge.  Amazing.  I am waiting to hear from my son.  See if he has something NEW to report.

G has also reunited with the little espresso machine we bought while living in Germany.  He is making a nightly cup of espresso to have with his sweet.  He finished off (last night) the candy coated pretzel sticks our daughter makes him for Christmas.  White chocolate coating with tons of candy sprinkles.  I still have Reeses cups in the freezer until the bananas are dead enough to bake bread.

I have several recipes to try in the next few weeks.  A low carb almond bread, flour less chocolate cake and perhaps a cheesecake all made without wheat flour or real sugar.  I never did start in on any of the fabric projects I thought I would work on this winter.  Yesterday I sorted my seed packets.  Time to start my onions and fennel.  I'm thinking of sprouting some seeds in a canning jar.  And I may try to get one of the seeds from my avocados to set roots.  The Christmas Amaryllis are sending up flower stalks but it's a long way to seeing any flowers.  Perhaps a Valentine surprise??  What are you doing?

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Future Is Banana Bread

I bought two bananas with the intention of baking a loaf of banana bread for G's evening snack.  He finished up the snack sized carrot cake with cream cheese frosting last night (Downton Abbey) and the pan of Brownies I made last week is empty.  I'm just waiting for the bananas to be "good and dead" as the recipe asks.

My recipe box is about 18 inches long and filled to overflowing with 4 by 6 index cards.  I go thru it when I can no longer wedge a single new card into the box.  I try and sort out recipes I know (think) I will be needing in the season (winter) and stand them on end at the front.  I have ABC files but the most used recipes are always in the front of the box.  And I have decided to file by S for soup instead of by ingredient.  Banana bread is easy. Either way, it's B.

Here it is.  The absolutely Incredible Banana Bread Recipe.

4T of butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
3 dead bananas (nicely freckled with brown)  But feel free to use two if that is what you have.
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup yogurt, cottage cheese or sour cream.  Only one of the three choices.

2 cups flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t salt (less if your butter is salted)
2/3 cup of optional raisins, walnuts or chocolate chips  ( I add the walnuts if G doesn't want our daughter eating any of the bread)

Mix all the wet stuff together with a spoon or a hand mixer.  Mix all the dry together and then add to wet.  Pour into a greased 9 inch loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for one full hour.  Cool on a rack about 10 minutes and then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.  Gets better with age.

Yesterday G helped our daughter select and purchase a new flat screen television and a new camera.  she had also wanted an iPad mini but they didn't have what she wanted in stock.  Then G helped her set up the new television.  Excellent picture quality and the DVD player worked--everyone was delighted.

G had also purchased a new flat screen for us.  Thirty nine inches (bigger than the one our daughter had purchased).  He set it up and the picture quality was awful.  All the faces were either squished from the top or smeared on the screen. The faces were a terrible pink color with no definition. And the movement of anyone across the screen made me queasy.  I know there is a ratio of screen size and distance from the viewer.  I am certain the screen was much too large for the short viewer distance we have.  If the screen had been in the next room, I am sure it would have looked great.  G packed it all up and is returning the set this morning.

I had the beginnings of a migraine (which I haven't had in nearly 15 years) from just that 20 minutes or so of looking at the screen.  I felt nauseous. My temples ached.  I couldn't even read.  And Downton Abbey (on the old television) look smeary as I was having trouble with my eyes focusing.  It could also have been the odor of the unboxed new flat screen.  Very toxic.  To me.  G admitted that our daughter's new television had an excellent picture.  Ours did not.  Same brand.  Only larger.  The difference
between 32 inches and 39.

I am absolutely distressed when G brings home something he is very keen on having and I don't like it. I want to like it for his sake and have often just gone along with his purchase--never really pleased with whatever it is but wanting to keep him happy.  But this time, no matter how I tried to make it work, I couldn't get past the headache.  And I was so looking forward to Downton.  I really have very simple needs. Even though G says I am very difficult to live with. I don't need extravagant things.  I make do with whatever I have as long as it functions properly.  Twenty years with a terrible fridge.  But it worked.  But I want whatever I LOOK at to be clear, in focus and not incorrectly colored. I enjoy seeing things clearly. And not stretched sideways to fill the screen.

That being said.  I am cranky, crabby and extremely fussy when things aren't going my way or just don't "feel" right.  I have bought and returned any number of lovely things that did not make me happy.  Or didn't function properly.  Or really had no place in my life when I had them in front of me, at home.  I have returned jobs because I knew going to work "there" would make me more miserable than I could stand to be.  I tried to return my new husband after a week of marriage.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Remembering Vacations In Wisconsin

My husband's family has a cabin in Wisconsin.  When the kids were little we would drive up there from our suburban Chicago home for a long weekend.  Apple picking in an abandoned  orchard, bike rides, fishing.  Evenings and long afternoons spent reading books on the double log bunks on the screened porch.  The bunks made up for the lack of indoor plumbing.  Not.

I saw this picture on someone's Pin Board and thought I would add it to my blog and just remember those happy days spent with G's family.  My son loved to go fishing with his grandfather and my daughter loved reading almost as much as her grandmother did.  G's parents were very loving and sweet to their grandchildren.  Never forgetting a birthday. G's mom even made a ball gown birthday cake for S, with a Barbie like doll nestled into the center of a cake baked in an angel food cake pan.  And decorated in pink flowers like a fancy dress.  And to make that year even better-- G's aunt had handmade Barbie clothes for sale and I purchased all the pieces she wanted.  Cute sweaters, skirts and jackets and a ball gown or two.

I am pretty positive the log bunks are still up at the cabin.  The memories are here, with us.

I am now going to answer two questions:

What happened with Riley's hot spot?

Riley did indeed have what is called a "hot spot" and amazingly we did exactly the right things.  The Benadryl to stop the itching and distraction to stop the dog from licking until the pills took effect.  G took Riley to the vet as soon as we could.  And the vet, new to the practice we go to, called us on Friday to see how things were.  She didn't want us to head into a no service weekend with a problem. I was very impressed.  Riley licks there once in awhile but we know what to do if it gets to bothering him in the future.  And the anti bacteria cream was another good thing we did (and not letting him lick for 45 minutes while it soaked in).

Why don't I offer my work for sale?

My blog is a personal blog.   I am not using this blog to publicize or commercialize what I do as an artist.  I may have mentioned my entry into the 10x10 Art Auction but I did so knowing none of you would be in attendance trying to buy my piece.  And you had to actually be there with your hand on the frame in order to buy it.  And I mentioned it to let you know I was "trying new things".  It is easy to slide into turning your blog into a "business".  That's okay.  It's just not me.  And it's way too much trouble.  I did sell a number of quilts that I had on display at the library, when I worked there.  People asked to buy them and if I wanted to let them go--I sold them.  But when people started asking me to MAKE items for them, I said no.  That sounds too much like hard work.

I have a job where I do hard work and earn money.  I have art to make myself happy. Art is not my job and never will be.

That being said, if you see something (art or not) on the blog and you want it (and don't mind waiting a long time to get it Dee), then email me and ask.  We'll talk.  But not Riley.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rolling Barn Doors

This was published as a cheap "do it yourself" barn door treatment.  The reason I like this?  Well, I don't have any flat, tall walls for a design surface in the upstairs sewing room (where I have been intending to move for almost 2 years now) and I had thought that a rolling design wall instead of closet doors would be interesting.  The doors here would be flannel covered wall boards in my room.  Of course, that means a structure for the flannel boards to be attached to.  I like the little wheels at the bottom.  Instead of the many hundreds of dollars the real barn door hardware costs--this was made from stuff in the plumbing department of Home Depot.  Pipe.  Hooks.  I don't think I would need the door handles.  Roller feet.  And I can still get into the closet to choose fabrics.

The ceiling in my future workspace dips south around where the guitar and bookshelf is in this photo.  BUT. The closet continues, behind the drywall, into the dip.  Wasted space.  I think we could open it up and install book shelving there.  Or deeper shelving to hold the big storage containers of fabric.  Dry wall is the one area of construction that G and I have never touched before.  In 44.5 years together.  Another potential hiccup, the deep pile carpet we had installed in this room.  We'd need big enough wheels to roll over the carpet.  I'm thinking only one panel.  Not two.  And the pipe system could extend onto the ceiling.  Because the closet wall ends on the left side of the closet.  As I said.  I have no full walls to work with.  No full ceiling. Lots of windows.  Skylights.  Half walls.  It's an attic room.

I do have tons of natural light, a full bathroom and cable.  The only unfortunate element in this new workspace is the dog.  Riley doesn't like me going upstairs --to stay.  He does like going upstairs to get something and bring it back downstairs.

I am supposed to get my very first Social Security check in a few days.  And yet another edition of my Social Security card.  That makes three.  All this paperwork must keep seniors on their toes.  G had a doctor's appointment this month, before our Advantage Plan takes over in February, so he used his Medicare card for the first time.  No problems.

I thought I would give you a report on our first month of retirement.  All the bills are paid and I have some money left over.  Most of those funds were carryover from G's pay checks.  We have done a number of household projects (the kitchen cabinets, the flooring, the office cleanup) with no expenditures.  G feels he would be better occupied if it was warmer outside, as there are things to do outside.  We eat a large breakfast whenever we get up and then another meal around 4:30 to 6 depending on what we are doing.  I have been doing all the cooking and even though the credit card bill I just paid had five restaurant meals on it, we haven't eaten out in the past three weeks.

 I have calmed down and realize we will be just fine.  We had learned to live on a lot less while G was working as a McD's restaurant manager the past four years.  A lot less.  So the hard part of the transition had already occurred without me noticing.  I had imagined we would have to live on a lot less than we were used to, but that isn't true.  The unknown is often scarier than the actuality.

We aren't getting on each other's nerves.  I haven't gotten much done besides looking for work for the unemployment Work Search.  That's almost a full time job in itself.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Scrap Fabric Collector & Late Night Shopper

Those of you who have paid attention in the (is it 7?) years I have been blogging know I am not a big fan of piecing.  Even though, in my terms as Program and President of my quilt chapter, I had the thankless task of sewing together many (mis-sized) charity blocks made by the members.  I even sashed them.  It had been my idea to have the members make a "monthly Charity Block" and I felt we had to actually do something with them.  I think we made 6 or 7 bed quilts out of them and some dear sweet person quilted all of them on her long arm.  I have one, a favorite of mine, bundled under my worktable basted onto a very puffy poly batt.  It's the brown and beige one.  Each month had a two color theme. In November we each made and donated two hand made potholders to the Elks Thanksgiving Baskets.

Twice a year we had an all day (Saturday) Quilt-A Thon.  We brought food in crock pots, snacks in bags, lots of candy and all of our projects, ironing boards, sewing machines, cutting mats etc etc.  It was like a shelter for homeless quilters. I usually baked a huge pan of cinnamon rolls and brought them warm from the oven to have with morning coffee.  I usually sat at (or near) the table where Wendy, Carol, Kathy S, Karen and Kathy B sat.  They were always laughing.  Wendy was also always making postage sized quilt blocks out of 30's fabrics or cowboy fabrics.  All the pieces for the half triangles in the above piece were collected from Wendy's "cut offs".  The centers and sashing is from my little (at the time) stash.  This is about 18 inches square-ish.  I also made two smaller doll bed quilts from 1 inch or less bits.  This is where I got my reputation for making things out of the wastebasket.  Waste Not.

I still have little quart baggies filled with little bits of fabric.  I could never throw them away.  I should have made these things in a rectangular, placemat size so I could visit with them at dinner time.

The women at that table made, and STILL make, the most gorgeous quilts.  Wendy's have won prizes all over America.  They knew everything about everything.  Taught me how to make and attach binding, straighten the sides of blocks and how to miter a border onto a quilt.  I perplexed them with my hand appliqué of a very large gay Rooster.

G is cleaning out his dresser drawers.  He's down to that.  Yesterday he finished off his office.  This morning he has found 7 pairs of glasses frames including the ones he wore the day we got married.  And he found the beautiful watch I purchased for him in Germany with the phases of the moon on the face.  We thought that was lost forever.  He also found something that needed batteries.  And an antique Nintendo Game Boy with one game which I wrapped and stuck into the box I am filling for my son.  I also found Fire.  If my son is reading this, he is now very happy.

I was just "passing through" the channels last night and came across a one hour special price deal with 7 minutes left.  A Fuji FinePix camera for less than $160.  I dialed.  In 3 to 7 days I will see what I bought.  The camera I am now using is a Fuji FinePix purchased about 7 years ago (also late at night from a shopping channel).  I love it but it is getting old.  The features on the new camera I saw last night looked familiar.  And it was a "black body" camera.  I was going to say it makes movies, but the one I have can do that--but I have never used that feature.  In fact, all the accessories and video are still in the original box.  All I wanted to do was take pictures and post them on the internet.

My husband's roommate from college works for Fuji.  D sent me film once.  That was nice.  And I still own Doug's old black body Nikon.  I LOVE that old film camera with adjustable everything.  Nothing automatic at all.  We got it in the mid 60's and it was already old by then.  And very heavy.  I am hoping this new Fuji is wonderful.  I'll show it to you in 3 to 7 days.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

More Country Baltimore Blocks

This block has the sawtooth sashing added.  I just wanted (at the time) to see what it looked like and if it actually fit on the block.  I like how the corners would make a star.   I think this was one of the pattern blocks.  I guess Country or Primitive meant plain as well.

 I made this one from a few different patterns.  I don't like the fabric I selected for the bird bodies and the birds are just floating with no branch or twig to sit on.  It doesn't work with the other blocks even though two other blocks have these same birds.  And the wide expanses of green leaf doesn't work for me either. Perhaps I could cut the leaf open and do reverse appliqué veins? I don't think I knew how then.

Two of the buds have a bit of pattern on them which gives a bit of "sparkle" to the surface.  Only two.  Why didn't I recut the parts for the other two?  And the yellow.  By the time I had gotten this far, I was tired of the solid fabrics I had chosen (and the greens) and I had started adding "new" fabrics which wasn't the best of ideas.  I actually like this block.  It fills the space and has lots of elements to keep the eye busy.  In real life this yellow is much paler.  Lemony.  And the red is more red not so orange.  I do like the red being more orange and wish I had actually USED orange.

It's cold today and we are going to the grocery store.  G is out of all his breakfast supplies.  I made a very large pot of chicken soup yesterday and I have one more big bowl of the tomato kale soup.  I used the wrong tomato (frozen garden cherry tomatoes) and it's too sweet and the kale is a bit stinky.  Or I just don't care for it anymore.  I am having problems finding good low carb things to eat that are warm and wintery.  I just want to eat starchy, hot things out of a bowl in the winter.  Usually, we ate tons of pasta.  I think I will buy ground beef or a few pounds of chuck and make a large pot of chili.  No beans.  And eat it with cheddar and sour cream.  And avocado.

Watched Eat, Pray, Love last night.  I had read the book long ago.  It was okay.  Not great.  Movie was the same.  She still came across as terribly whiny.  Did I mention how cold it is?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Country Baltimore Blocks-1999

I designed this one myself.  Using pictures from quilt books and mixing and matching elements.  Notice the untraditional background fabric.  My love of all things dotted.  I chose brilliant colors (though the yellow isn't what I wanted--not golden enough) and traditional Civil War greens because I wasn't as sure of myself as I could have been (now) to go with the acid greens.  I can see the influence of Canadian Curling here also.  (ed: the red is reading as an orange on the screen)

I believe this block was made from the commercial pattern.  There were patterns for 6 blocks (which I purchased) and an eight inch wide appliquéd border.  I was learning to do needle turn and these were my first ever pieces.  I took to it like a duck to water.  I went to class with a friend once a month and we learned to do the stitches for each of the blocks.  The designs were meant to be primitive and not elegant as are the designs I made later from Ellie's Baltimore books.  Silk ribbon roses and couched velvet.

I think the finished 4 block by 4 with sashing and border measured at over 100 inches.  More like 116. There was no way this was ever going on any bed in my house.  My husband didn't like it.  The original was supposed to be a twin sized bed quilt.  Six blocks plus a border.  Once I started making new blocks, my husband I made quite a few 60 mile trips looking to match the red, greens and mostly the yellow and blue and the background.  I THINK I have enough to make all the sashing but not enough to make the wide borders.  And certainly not enough to do the heavy appliqué. I bought the very last of the dotted background from three quilt shops.

Another original design (meaning I took elements from a few patterns and mixed them up).  I see the need for some stem stitch to join the grapes to the stems.  I think all the blocks could use the added design element of some stem stitch.  Like Bemused.  I used the bias stem and leaf design in my friend Beverly's round robin.  Only I had the bias stem curve over the mitered borders.  Eight repeats of 27 leaves.  Wider bias and larger leaves.  I did each section in one night of watching television.  I am very fast and my stitches hardly ever show.

I also am (was) in the process of making a hand turned sawtooth sashing to attach the blocks.  I saw it in an 1800's quilt book and thought it was the perfect design element.  I think I had 49  eighteen inch strips to make and I think I made it to 29.  One of the blocks I photographed has the border sewn on so you will see it tomorrow.  The pattern for the sawtooth had to be handmade by me.  All that 9th grade geometry came into play.  Good thing that was the ONLY math class I excelled in.  Is geometry the most artistic of the maths?  My sawtooth looks very primitive and uneven.  From the looks I got from 30 year hand piecing veterans--I was certified crazy to even be making it.  They would have pieced it but NEVER would have appliquéd them.  Beginners are nothing if not fearless.

As usual, I enjoyed the challenge of this project.  The learning.  The search for fabric.  The making of patterns.  The tracing of said pattern onto freezer paper.  But once I got close to the finish line, it was all just repetition and knowing I would never USE it--well, I lost interest.  Would I do it again.  I don't know. As I never finished, it's hard to say I would ever begin again.  It took a long time to get all 16 blocks to this stage.  IF I actually have all 16.  I should go back up and count.

Any Baltimore I made now would be of the elegant, very detailed ones.  Ships with sails.  After making this I did make a few elegant "starts" and then transferred my love to crazy quilts.  And then I began teaching applique and crazy quilting.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Retrospective/Introspective Sunday

I was upstairs in the unused guest master suite, going thru boxed up quilting things.  Twelve rather large and heavy containers.  While I did that, riley threw up his lunch.  So I also had the thrill of cleaning the carpet.  I had intended to select a few Baltimore style needle turn blocks to photograph for the blog.  Something Fiber Or Art.  Instead you get the Dancing Crows.  Never quite finished needle turn though I have the border fabric and some gold braid that I had planned to use.  I'm thinking all this is pre-2002.  If I had it to do over I would have a more shaded background, not so flat and one tone.  And the crows don't have their eyes.  And why aren't the legs level?

The Baltimore blocks look awful.  I DID love them in 1999.  If and when I go back up and get a good picture I will share them with you.  Not today.  The combination of old fabric and carpet cleaner has shortened my breath.  I am having some problems taking a deep breath.  It could be an allergy or perhaps a cold or flu.  I didn't take my usual Benadryl before bed last night.  So, I am thinking allergy. This house is very dusty.  Especially, upstairs.  (I am better now)

When I considered the title for this post--last night, I had several really good ideas about what I was going to write.  Pithy.  Or so I thought.  Now, I can't remember anything.  Perhaps there isn't enough oxygen getting to my brain.

I do want to mention that looking through the 12 boxes of fabric and projects was sad.  I remember taking so much time and effort in selecting and buying those fabrics.  Those patterns.  And hardly finished (or started) most of them.  The fabric and the patterns are bundled together.  It's like I became someone else while they waited for me to start (or finish).  Today?  I might use the patterns but with much different fabric and with a better eye to how to use the fabric to it's best.  My interest in the Civil War/American Primitive was fueled by the other 5 members of my Mini Quilt Group.

Another container is all about Depression/Feed Sack with genuine 30's quilt tops I intended to quilt.  Another is Kaffe Fassett or however you spell that.  And there is a container of felt and an unfinished wool runner with appliqué felt flowers buttonholed in place.  I also have "candy" fabric I intended to use to make a Gingerbread House quilt.

One of the flowers on the best block I could find of my Country Baltimore (to show you) had a bud with the perfect placement of pattern.  The other flowers did not.  The block failed.  Did I see it at the time?  Why didn't I fix the other three????  And so many blocks had birds on them.  I try not to buy anything with a bird on it these days.  Perhaps that is why the Dancing Crows never got finished.  I can consider cutting the block in a few spots and inserting something.  I like cutting up useless blocks.

I know that our color choices change every 7 years.  Our fashion styles run on a ten year cycle and we are recycling 1980 right now.  Bigger shoulders and hair.  Skinny legs.  Long coats.  Dresses.  But I hadn't thought our fabric for quilts changed all that much.  I know quilters who chose the 1930's and are still there after 30 years of making quilts.  Others are still working the Civil War.

Where am I?  Well, there are only 12 containers.  I already donated an equal amount to Project Linus. Stuff I knew I would never use.  The 12 containers are what I couldn't part with--yet.

I did bring down an armload of black and white fabric.  Why did I put it into a container?  I love black and white.  And had been thinking I had given it away.  I can finish up the last of the four new placemats I am making for daily use.  Which means making binding.  UGH.  And stitching the binding to edge.  Double UGH.  The hand sewing.  Now that I do actually enjoy.  I also found the bundle of browns my son selected for a quilt.  All stars.  Center square with half square triangle star points.  So long ago.  He has waited long enough I think.  I could make the half squares by hand.  Evenings.

That trip upstairs for something to "show you" has led to many memories.  Many false starts and dead ends.  And a few things that I can actually work on.

I wonder if traditional quilting was ever "what I really wanted to do?"  Or was it the price of admittance  to a wonderful group experience.  Fellowship and friendship.  Two things I miss having in my life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Thank Goodness They Didn't Have My Size

I found these delightful shoes on a blog I was reading.  Regular price was $325 and sale price was $175.  They had already sold out my size (and that was the largest size they came in) and the description mentioned a tight fit.  I don't like tight shoes even if the maker says they "stretch when worn".  How do you wear them when they are tight?  I already have ballerina flats that I try and stretch while wearing socks with them.  Not working so far. I do have a pair of shoes that I bought last Winter.  Have never worn them.  Not exactly what I wanted but nice looking with tights and have a low heel.  Comfortable.  Why haven't I worn them???  Oh, because I never had anywhere to wear a skirt and they are too old lady to wear with jeans.

I have straightened out all my Unemployment papers and got a partial payment for that first week.  I had gotten about twelve different mailings since Wednesday.  And yesterday I got a batch from Social Security.  Remember me mailing a big check to Medicare for my Part B?  Well, Social Security notified me they are taking out Medicare Part B from each monthly check.  So I will have paid twice from January to March.  I hope they figure it out without me having to make phone calls.  My check is smaller than I had hoped.  And will be even smaller after they take out Part B.  But, as G says, its more than nothing.

This year I am widening my possible job search.  To include possibilities I hadn't considered.  Jobs where I have no experience.  Because, my greenhouse job (that I love) is a job where I applied with no experience and it has turned out very well.  Perhaps there is another job out there I would like as much or more?  Faux painting of murals as an example.

I made a 5 pound pot roast yesterday. It was on sale this week.  The house smelled wonderful as it roasted away in the oven.  We had mashed potatoes, baby green peas and cole slaw with the meat and gravy.  I also made pan of brownies for G to have for dessert.  He's eaten all the chocolate cookies I baked before Christmas.  I made SF jello for myself but didn't have any.

I find, when trying to save money on food, that shopping the perimeter and buying whatever is on sale is the least expensive.  So I bought a huge pork butt roast and had them cut the pot roast for me.  Next time I am going for a 6 to 7 pound pot roast.  Bigger is better.  More leftovers to work with.  Russet potatoes were $2.48 for a large bag.  Grapefruit was on sale.  Carrots were 3 pounds for $2.  I read that buying things "by the bag" is always cheaper.  I tried the store brand of bacon and it is even better than the brand I was paying more for.  Do you have any ways of saving grocery dollars?

G is trying to match, cut and install the crown molding on the dish cupboard.  The last bit of finish work on the kitchen "re-do".  He has been up and down from the kitchen to the above the garage workshop (it's very cold today) and is bundled up.  Many trips.  Lots of measuring trying to get the complex cut to match.  We only have a limited amount of usable trim pieces.  Front piece is being nailed up as I type and the side piece is next up.  It looks good.

Friday, January 18, 2013

What I See

Here is the view from the dining room.  The rolling cart is where that built in desk unit was.  The side of the new fridge.  My frying pans, cast iron casseroles and the largest of my All Clad pots.  The empty jars were being stored but now I can fill them up again with all sorts of wonderful things.

My new computer desk.  Across from the couch where we watch television and read books in the evenings.  You can see a tiny corner of my ottoman.  The desk belonged to a former employer at the Little Traveler in Geneva, Ill.  One of my favorite jobs.  I was in the Cookware/Kitchen Sales Room.  I got to wear an apron and serve at the daily luncheon.  He was upgrading to a larger desk and they put this one on sale in the antiques room.  It took several pay periods for me to pay for it but I have enjoyed having this desk in my homes for many many years now.  And finally it is being used.  As  a desk.  And those are my file containers under the desk.  The large gray box is for taxes and the smaller open box is for current bills and papers I may need.  I put anything I thought I might need in that box and that thought has been a life saver during all this mess.

Here's a better view of my rolling cart and the new fridge.  See how shiny it is?  You can also see the repaired flooring.  Eventually the sun will make those new pieces as dark as the others.  Cherry is very light sensitive and darkens with exposure to light.   I like having my kitchen items handy.  It's nice not to have to get the step ladder every time I want to use something.  Sometimes the thought of getting the step ladder kept me from even using these things.  I love shopping at a restaurant supply shop.  Those plastic containers (with red lids) on the top right come in very handy when making pickles or grape jelly.  If I was still baking bread, they would be handy for letting dough rise also.

I found the tapioca flour recipe for waffles.  I read the comments and around 25% of the people who tried the recipe made a mess rather than waffles.  The others raved about the wonderful waffles.  I also found another recipe that used almond flour and potato flour. These also had a 25% failure rate.  I wonder what happens?  GF baking isn't for the faint of heart.  It also isn't the best tasting product.  You have to REALLY want to eat a waffle--any waffle, to want to eat these.  I am not at the point of wanting to eat a bad waffle.  Now, if I had an allergy to gluten products or a child of mine did--I would try these recipes in a heartbeat and try and make them delicious.  But I am not sensitive to gluten.

I ate an entire bowl of cooked wheat berries.  My tummy hurt a bit as the wheat berries moved along into my intestines but that is expected if you are stupid enough to eat so many at one time.  After they traveled, I was fine.  I learned to love cooked wheat berries in Germany where they were offered in the salad bar at a Health Restaurant.  You filled your plate and then had it weighed and paid.  Salad, vegetables, wheat berries and a boiled egg.  A very good lunch.  My second favorite German lunch was a  dense sour wheat loaf with thin sliced ham, cheese and a very sharp German mustard.  Breakfast was German rolls, good butter and apricot jam.

I never gained weight in Germany (I walked everywhere and lived on top of a steep hill) but was easily recognized (from behind) by my rear end even as a size 12.  I am a very wide bottomed pear.  Perfectly shaped peasant stock for birthing a dozen babies in the field and not missing a minute of work.  (laughing)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I Went For A Ride In The Car And Feel Better

I sometimes think I get house sick.  Too much time here in the house.  Not enough time in the outside world, breathing different air.  Not a lot of air.  I don't want the flu.  I can't remember if you have seen this kitchen before?  I like the island a great deal.  And those hanging lamps.

My fridge is now "balanced" and "level" and working less and producing no frost in the freezer drawer.  I gave it a little pat and rubbed off the fingerprints that marred it's shiny surface.  We're happy again.

We went to the library to return books and pick out a few new ones.  As usual, by the time I got home, there was an email notice that I had a book to pick up.  I asked while there and it didn't seem to help.

Yesterday, I received 6 letters from Unemployment.  And in each letter 2 full color, glossy flyers relating the joys of unemployment fraud and the joys of prison.  This is how they choose to spend money.  All the letters come from the same office and each has separate postage.  Two said exactly the same thing.  Two contradicted each other.  Two were Work Search Logs for two different addresses. I have no idea which one to fill out.   What I would enjoy getting is prepaid envelopes.  So I could send all the flyers back to them.

My head hurts today.  Sinus pressure.  I think a low pressure weather system is coming into Maine.  Its' supposed to be very cold tonight.  We had about 6 inches of snow yesterday.  Today the roads are black and the snow is melting.  All the clean snow is already dirty.

I stopped at the health food store to buy some tapioca flour.  I think there was some sort of recipe that uses it.  Can't remember. Waffles? I skipped the coconut butter for a loaf of bread I saw on the internet.  Coconut butter, eggs and macadamia nuts.  About $16 a loaf.  I don't want bread that badly. And what if it's terrible?  Most of these "science experiments" are awful. I bought organic pop corn and nutritional yeast for a Hippie Pop.  With lots of butter it could be fun.  I tasted the yeast and it's sort of cheesy.  The blog the popcorn came from suggests dill and the yeast.  Sort of Little Lad. Which I don't like. I also fell under the magnetic, mind altering spell of Swiss Mueslix.  God, I love that stuff.  Someone told me to eat a cookie.  My "cookie" would be Mueslix and cream.  It's now in the cupboard.  Last time I bought some I waited 5 or 6 weeks before actually opening the box.

I think a bowl of heavily buttered popcorn will be enough of a treat for this week.  One new food a week.  Last week it was butter fried potatoes.  And that may not have been a good idea as I got a look at myself in the mirror at Goodwill.  No matter what my family says--I look fat.  My pants are swishing around me giving the impression I am not fat.  But a mirror doesn't lie. Awful.  I did buy the cutest little sleeveless summer shift.  It zipped but not without a great deal of effort.  But I would NOT want to try sitting down in it.  It is going to be my new "test" clothing item.  When it fits.  I will be happy.  Maybe. But if (when) it fits I will have something to wear when everyone else is wearing a little cotton dress this summer.  The dress reminds me of the dresses I wore in 1968.  I would have loved this dress in 1968.  With a little cream cardigan.

I may go up into the attic and find the needle turn appliqué blocks I stored up there.  I am thinking I should finish that project.  Or just look at it and perhaps share the blocks with you.  You'd like that.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Winter White, Winter Whining

There are so many lessons to be learned this month.  So many things, unexpected, that humble us. Today began without the slightest hint of what was coming.

My joy for my fridge has been tempered by the knowledgable repair person who just left.  Yes, three days old and in need of a repair. I have spent a great deal (to me) of money on what he refers to as "a large styrofoam box coated in thin sheets of metal".  Yes, it is energy efficient but that is about all.  And the ice maker in the fridge door?  Only going to cause trouble.  Each time we open the door, the ice warms up, until it's a big clump and it burns out the motor.  And the freezer drawer?  Another idea that seems nice but isn't.  Any package that is higher than the drawer will keep the drawer from closing.  Even a quarter of an inch.  I have two drawers and so many opportunities for the freezer to go wrong.  No joy.

My joy for reading blogs and leaving comments is also gone.  It took awhile for me to realize that the comments aren't a conversation. The chance to begin a friendship.  Possibly. The comment is ONLY a place for the Reader to affirm the "rightness" of whatever the Writer has written, in 99% of the blogs.  This isn't true of my own blog.  I am always learning from the (very) few readers I have.  They leave comments and I consider their advice.  Sometimes what they have had to say, changes the way I think about a subject.  Other times, it gives me a chance to investigate my own ideas.  Defend my beliefs.  But to be told, thank you for writing but I don't need to hear what you are saying, well, I am done adding my comment.  I may even be done reading that blog.

I typed a bunch more bitchy little things and then deleted them.  This is yet another thing I have to learn and be humbled by.  My propensity to belittle.  To point to the weakness.  One of my Readers pointed this out to me and I have been faithfully rewriting posts since the day I read her comment.  I doubt she is still reading, as she found my habit offensive.  I find it offensive and hope that I have to press delete less often these days.

My enjoyment in reading blogs and visiting the internet is fading.  I don't seem to be finding or reading the really good blogs.  Occasionally, (even a blind squirrel will find an acorn), I find something really good, thought provoking and enjoy reading.  But, as often happens, this is a blogger who doesn't post often or ever again.

Perhaps it is just Winter.  Perhaps it is just me "changing".  Becoming less likable.  More of the Grumpy Old Woman my coworkers call me.  Well, I am going to have a bit of a self absorbed little cry now and then blow my nose and get back to whatever it was I was doing before my fridge needed a repair.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Great Expectations For Dogs

Riley is in a bit of a snit today as things aren't going as he had planned.  If dogs plan.  And I think they do.  He napped during our breakfast and newspaper reading and then expected to be going out for a walk.  G is working on the door.

G is finding the dog's expectations to be annoying. (surprise!!!)  Now he knows how I have felt about being home with the dog (alone) in past winters.  All Riley wants is to go for a walk.  And then another.  When he was 1 or 2 years old, we were out walking all day long, it seemed.  Then we got the Invisible Fence and G expected Riley to amuse himself outdoors.  Hah!  He sits on the deck and stares into the house.  The only time he runs around the yard is when one of us is outside with him.  I know. You think he needs a dog sibling.  I think we are a ONE DOG family. Though I wouldn't mind if someone dropped their dog off here for the day.  And that dog had an electric collar on our frequency.

Today's breakfast was the wheat berries I cooked last week topped with pomegranate arils, olive oil and Balsamic vinegar.  Not on my diet but they needed to be eaten (waste not) and they were delicious and very attractive in my bowl.  Chewy.  Now I wait to see what digestive mischief they will cause.  My new diet suggests eating the majority of your carbs in one meal.  I think that is what it said.

I finished my new mystery by Inger Ashe Wolfe, Door In The River.  It's the third in the series.  This is a fake name for a well known author writing mysteries, which are beneath serious fiction authors.  I guess.  The three mysteries are very good.  They start out the way a roller coaster ride does.  Slowly. Just moving around the track, picking up speed, letting you look around while the car climbs to the top of the first big dip.  After that, hang on.  Hazel isn't your typical policeman.  Middle aged, bad back and bitchy.  No people skills.  I don't think I would like her very much if she lived next door.  But I would go get her if something bad happened at my house or to my family.

I have the choice of a good Norwegian mystery next or another time travel romance. Hard to choose.

I sliced and salted the two eggplant I bought on Saturday. Quarter inch slices from top to bottom, lengthwise. I plan to bread and fry them later today.  We still have a few meatballs and marinara and that sounds like an okay supper.  Fried food is high in fat content and I intend to top them with cheese if I don't eat most of them during the frying. I grew to adore fried eggplant when I learned how to make it from a New Jersey transplant to South Florida (we both worked for the same company).  She regularly brought fried eggplant sandwiches for lunch.  If she had worked there longer, I would have learned to make more Italian dishes, earlier.

My grocery has beef pot roasts and pork butt roasts on sale this week.  I like both.  I also need some carrots, brown sugar, bacon and more eggs.  And another jar of peanut butter.  But that means getting out of pajamas and into clothes.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

New Refrigerator Day

It's new.  It's shiny. I can see all my fresh foods while standing up.  The freezer drawer pulls out.  All my fresh food fits.  The frozen "just" fits.  But I think if I freeze things in different shapes, it will all fit in the future.   The set up guys were very nice and did an excellent job. Arrived at 9 am and gone by noon. They carried the fridge into the house.  No rolling on dollies.  When we hooked up the water nothing came out in the ice/water door dispenser (never had that before) and when we looked inside the fridge was full of water.  So everything got a nice wash and dry.  The filter wasn't as tight as it should have been.  Now it's cooling down and all my food is back inside a fridge.  Very exciting.  Shiny.

It's rather gray and drippy outside.  Cold inside.  But one giant ray of sunshine is that I am wearing the navy cord pants (JJill) that I bought this summer at Goodwill (when they fit loose) and then this fall they no longer fit.  Way too tight.  Today they fit.  Not tight at all but not as loose as in the summer.  Very exciting.  The new breakfast must be working.  One whole egg plus two yolks cooked in the fat left from frying three strips of bacon.  One potato fried in 3 T of butter.  I have a small handful of raw almonds around 2 or 3 and then dinner at 5 or 6 (or even later).  Today, since I was moving things around, I had 1 T of peanut butter at 9 am and lunch was one whole egg plus two yolks over  leftover roasted Brussels sprouts and some cheddar cheese.  Now that I can see the leftovers, we might be able to actually eat them before they get wooly.

For anyone who follows my diet adventure, the only difference in my diet which could account for the the pants fitting in the summer, not fitting in the Fall and fitting again, today, is that I am not eating ANY of my cereal products or aged cheeses. I am eating more carbs (the potatoes), less protein from meat sources, and more fat which is coming from fresh cheese like mozzarella and ricotta (remember I was eating garden tomatoes and mozzarella every day for breakfast all summer), bacon, heavy cream and lots of butter on everything.  I am adding heavy cream to my coffee.  If I think I want to eat later in the evening (usually jello or almonds) I just procrastinate getting up to get something until it's bedtime.  And I drink water.  I am rarely, if ever, actually hungry after breakfast.

Big football game today and I have eggplant to slice and salt.  Books to read.   A new rolling cart to fill with pots and pans if I feel like it.  I can get all the cookie sheets out of the cabinet (do they drive you nuts?) where they are always in the way or falling out on the floor.  Did I mention the shiny fridge?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Working On The Floor

This area was under the fridge (which was embedded into a closet style surround open only at the front) and under the right side of the desk unit.  We couldn't get at any of the damage as the cabinets were in the way.  I mentioned last time that this damage occurred during the Great Ice Storm.  This is the plywood under the wood planks.  A bit of mold and you can see the water damage.  You can also see that whomever laid the original planks did a piss poor job of the seams.  We discussed pulling up more planks but the same "whomever" installed the island ON TOP of the planks.  So to get any planks out, we would then be forced to deconstruct the island which has electrical outlets.  The vote to stop was 2 - 0.

The other area that was water damaged was by the counter in front of the sink.  We must have been VERY sloppy in the first years of living in this house.  Slopping water all over the counter and the floor.  I need to get one of those damaged wood repair kits and work on the trim areas with water damage.  Regain the deep cherry stain.  Now the floors are all done.  I am thinking of freshening up the cupboard doors with new handles.  The ones we have look old.  Like adding new buttons to a jacket.

G has gone for a walk with Riley.  It's 40 something and dripping outside.

The latest heating oil bill has arrived-- $571.  I am deeply depressed.  We have never gotten a bill this high.  And winter hasn't even begun.  Just when we have retired.  Sigh. The long, hot showers that were the highpoint of my days will have to become short, not so hot showers.  We also each got bills for Medicare Part B.

The only bright spot in my day happened after 4pm when I finally got through to Unemployment.  And then had a 20 minute wait until someone picked up my call.  I am just fine.  I had just used up my last week of last year and needed to start over again. Not going to prison. The person I spoke with suggested I ask my employer to keep me on one week longer in December/January and call me back one week later in March to solve this problem.  Sure.  I think a better solution is to not work the last Sunday.  Which puts me into a new week for Unemployment.  I have written in bold Sharpie marker on the 2013 December pages--do not work the last Sunday.  Which is the 22nd.   A bit early to stop working on such a busy holiday. And this is why bad things happen.

Who knows.  I may find a better job this winter.  And make more money. I would like a job making soup.  And making "today's vegetable".  I can always ask around.

I am off to the library to drop off books and pick up a new one.  I saw a number of good reads on the recent visit to Barnes and Noble and added them to my reading list.  One was by a favorite author and I am so pleased that it is the book I am picking up today.  I also plan to stop and see if the grocery has eggplant today.  On Thursday they were out of everything.  Tomorrow I will have a new fridge.  I just can't wait.

Friday, January 11, 2013

An End Of The Week Update

My high fat/low protein diet is working out better than I had hoped.  I am eating just two meals a day with no snacks.  Not hungry.  Dry, metallic taste in my mouth which makes drinking lots of water easier. A reader sent me some suggestions for smoothies. Some with kale in them.  I think I like the idea of a smoothie but have never made one.  The internet has tons of smoothies but mostly for body builders before and after lifting weights.  Paleo is mostly body builders or runners.  Then there's people like me.  Just want a smaller rear end.

The kitchen is getting ready for the new fridge.  YES. YES. YES. I bought it yesterday and it arrives on Sunday. It's all French Doors, Stainless, Bottom Freezer Drawer.  G is working on floor repairs and we will be dragging the old creepy fridge into the dining room area while he works on the floor.  G needs a shut off valve for the ice maker water supply.  Water is now dripping into a pail.  Our troubles have always been water problems.

And we have always had problems with the ice maker supply which is why G is repairing the flooring under the fridge.  The great flood during that big ice storm.  When the power goes off for 6 days--shut off the water supply to the ice maker.  Just a hint.  I remember walking into the kitchen that icy cold morning and stepping into a sea of water.  My heart sank and I used every bath towel we owned to soak it up, but water kept coming.  G was at work.  So he told me how to go into the crawl space and crawl, literally, in the dark with a flashlight and look for the kitchen area and find the tube shut off and turn it then back upstairs to see if it was off (not the first time and not today either) and then back down (it was like 12 degrees outside and inside with no heat) and then it was off and I had to hand wring the water out of the towels and then try to soak up more water.  Then wring and hang them in the garage to hopefully dry or just freeze solid.  Delightful memories.  I remember crying.  Oh, yeah.  And that was only the second or third day.  I had 3 or 4 more days to go.  In the dark, cold and with the wood stove giving me a terrible respiratory problem that took weeks to get over.  The ice maker tube brings back terrible memories.

Unemployment has already sent a letter saying I must call immediately along with a page of Unemployment Fraud Offenses.  I think my last day of work was my last day of the week at work but actually the start of a new week for Unemployment.  So I will have to send them a check for the amount I made on Sunday the 23rd.  I am writing in big letters on the 2013 December calendar sheet.  "Do Not Work On The Last Sunday".  Sigh.   I have called three times and the recorded message says they can't take any calls.  Period.

I do not even want to tell you about Medicare.  G sent them an envelope about an inch thick with photocopies.  People say I will be happy to have it.  I am not happy as of now.

I have had several terrifying moments since the emptying of the business desk drawers and the placement of business desk papers in new places.  Looking for important things and unpaid bills.  It has definitely NOT been fun.  I made sure I didn't shred anything.  So, in a pinch, I can dig around in the waste baskets or garbage bags.  Certainly has a loosening effect on the bowels.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Why Did We Wait So Long?

For over twenty years we have wanted to remove everything but the dish cupboard in this part of the kitchen.  The surround cabinets over and next to the fridge made it impossible to buy a decent sized new fridge (too wide and too tall).  The desk, while nice to have for the computer, is no longer needed. Everyone who knew how to do finish carpentry and saw this area--said "oh, it was all built on site, remove one thing and you have ruined the rest".  We believed them.

Here is G working on removing the only custom part of the overhead cabinet and book shelving.  The side cabinets came down easy-peasy.  We had some problems with the countertop as it was screwed down before the drawer units were installed.  But we got it out in perfect condition.  The tops of the drawer units was custom fitted so that took a bit of thinking. Finding the screws was never ending. Now G has two sets of drawers for his workshop.

The hardest part of the de-construction was the part we wanted gone the most.  That long side board and over the fridge cabinet.  So deep and high that we had forgotten what was stored in it.  Tupperware. Ancient 40 year old stuff.  Try as we might to do no damage, the remaining dish cupboard was damaged on the front top edge.  Where the finish carpenters had broken off long screws in the upper connecting space.  G tried everything to work the screws out and nothing worked.  So we lifted and pulled.  It was all we could do.  G now has the crown molding to recut and assemble on the top of the dish cabinet.  So It matches everything else.

The good parts of this job: we found lots of things we had forgotten we owned. The sad part: we bought this stuff. I got to move everything in the desk area to new homes and, because I usually try to put new things with things that are "like" them--I am hoping I can find them again when I need them.  I did successfully figure out where I had put my index cards.  I had a few recipes to copy out of the Rao's Cookbook.  Yes, Dee, the eggplant sauce and I may write down the one with olives as well.  I did copy the Tiramisu and Cheesecake recipes.

Now we need to fix the floor under the the cabinets due to water damage (if we had been smart this would have been an insurance claim years ago), figure out what sort of paint or panels we want on this wall and go shopping for a new fridge with bottom freezer drawer and it won't matter how wide or tall it is.  The other side (where the desk was) will be a rolling restaurant shelving unit about 48 inches wide.  With all my pots and pans handy and no digging in cabinets looking and trying to pull them out.  We were thinking of a new microwave on the shelving unit but I don't really want to take apart any more cabinetry.  Leave well enough alone.  It is just the first month of retirement.

My computer is tucked onto the little English desk in the living room.  It all fits and works.  I could even start watching movies on the computer while sitting on the couch.  It's something to consider. Could Netflix be far behind????

My new low carb diet (Dr K's Optimal) is going along quite well.  I try to eat the recommended breakfast, get too full and then have no desire to eat again until 5 or 6 pm.  The carb count is higher than I am used to and the fat content is WAY higher than I am used to.  We'll see.  I have no scale to go by.  I FEEL lighter everyday.  The button on my pants is no longer digging into my waist.  I am not happy with my reflection in the mirror.  I look sallow and tired.  I may need to bundle up and sit on the porch in the sun.  Get a winter tan.  Sort of a skier's tan.

Is there any project you have put off thinking it would be too difficult?

Monday, January 07, 2013

Learning How To Be Retired

Easy in some ways and not so easy in others.  I sail across the blogs looking for one that addresses being retired without a golden pension.  With just what you have managed to save on your own.  Wondering how to "live" and how to "enjoy living".  I think, in my heart, we will be fine.  We just need to find our footing.  Not too much.  Not too little.  Just enough.  Not more.

Riley has already discovered his "sweet spot".  G is home and Riley is ready to help get the morning paper, take out the recycling, go for a ride in the car and most of all, take a walk.  G is Riley's most favorite person.  So, for Riley, this is working perfectly.

The temperatures are keeping the skylights covered in icy snow.  Making it dark in here.  The great room.  Where we spend most of the daylight hours.  Where I have the heat turned up to 61.  The other rooms are all 58.  I would go lower in the bedroom wing if we didn't have a dog.  We always had the heat off and the window open an inch or two in the winters before Riley.  We have the very heaviest of down comforter and it was a delight to sleep under breathing ice cold air.  We never got sick.  But that is too cold for the dog and if we close the doors--he is sad.  We can't use the comforter.  I have a summer weight one on the bed and it is enough.  I miss breathing the cold air.  I think it is something we carried back to America from Germany.  Babies nap outside on the terrace in winter, wrapped in warm blankets.  Less germs.

I haven't made my "To Do" list for this Pajama Vacation of mine.  I do have my new Work Search Log to fill out.  Looking for work I don't want in order to comply with the Rules.  Five years of going back to work each year doesn't count for much with these Rule Makers.

I have already sorted and shredded the bills etc from years back.  Three very large bags of shredded paper.  I am working on clearing off the table.  I started on the fridge cleaning but then grocery shopping and cooking filled it again and it is a mess.

I do want to empty the desk where I am currently sitting, typing.  I want to empty it all.  The shelving and cabinets above.  And then move the computer to somewhere else.  Then G and I can start taking everything apart and down.  Making room for a new fridge and some open restaurant shelving.  I am sure the floor will need major work.  We have extra flooring in the attic which as been up there over 26 years.  In case we needed it. A bit of deconstruction is always interesting.

I am wondering if our daughter might like some "no longer needed" custom cherry cabinets over her sink in her kitchen.  The desk top would make a nice counter once a hole for the sink is cut into it.  It's just like the counter tops in my kitchen.  Easy to clean.  Plain.  Made of some wonder laminate that never stains or marks.  Who knows, she may be open to something quite different.  That would be nice.

This bit of construction might be all that I can manage in the next 10 weeks.  And the expense of the new fridge the only thing we should be buying right now.  While we practice being retired.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Low Carb Diet Going Into 2013

Now that I am approaching two years, (late March), on low carb dieting I have to decide if I stay or try something else.   I CAN stay on low carb.  I like it.  Usually.  Have no food cravings for sugar or wheat products other than cereal.  I have maintained my weight but haven't lost any in a long time.

And that is my dilemma.  I didn't try this low carb lifestyle to just maintain my weight.  Not that maintaining isn't a really wonderful thing.  It is nearly impossible to keep weight off.  Keeping at least 60 pounds off for over five years is one for the record books.  In my opinion.

In 2007, I went with just a straight calorie counting diet ( not Weight Watchers) and I basically ate whatever I wanted or whatever I had prepared for my husband and then stopped eating when the total in my food diary added up to 1200.  On the days when I only added up to 900--well, those were the days when I really lost weight.  I filled 6 or 7 little diary type books in the 365 days I was on the diet.  Losing 1 to 2 pounds every single week. I went from 238 to 158 in one year.  But I lost my job and was very, very angry most of the time.  I usually waited until 10 or 11 to eat breakfast, skipped lunch and had pasta, pizza and anything I wanted  for dinner.  I tried having soup (usually a thick lentil soup) for dinner several times during the month.  My recipe cards have all the calorie counts written in the margins.  I measured everything.  Counted everything.  I stopped at 158 (I wanted to go back down to 138 and a size 8) because my family and everyone who knew me thought I was fine at 158.

From 2008 to 2011 I tried going back on this 1200 calorie diet  whenever I added a few pounds and I could never get past day three.  I eventually had regained 30 pounds in three years.  I had already given away all the cute clothing I purchased when I was in the low 160's.  But I refused to go any higher in size than 14.  That's when I decided to try low carb.  I wanted the Atkins Golden Moment.  I wanted to drop 30 pounds.  Or 40 pounds and finally get back to my college weight of 145.  It didn't work out that way.

I discovered, early, that this low carb way of eating eliminated my desire to eat.  One slice or bread or pizza never satisfied me before.  I would eat the whole loaf of freshly baked bread or half the pizza.  I snacked on cake and cookies at work.  I finished bags of chips and ice cream late at night while watching television.  After typing this--I am amazed that I only gained 30 pounds back in three years.

The first five days on Atkins I lost 9 pounds.  And that was it for a very long time.  Every once in awhile I would drop another one or two pounds.  And then I stalled at 171/173.  Nothing I did, or do to this day will budge the number on the scale.

The really "Atkins" thing though, I am wearing ALL the clothing I wore when I weighed about 10 pounds less.  My only problem is my waistband.  Somedays the button on my pants is so hard to button and other days so loose I worry my pants will slide down.  I have started eating less on tight button days and more on loose button days.  Less carbs, more fat.

So I stay with low carb.  Adding a baked potato on steak nights (1 or 2 times a month).  Adding beans to soups along with carrots.  I haven't had ANY bread, pasta, cake, cookies or muffins and hardly any sugar in all this time.  I am not tempted to try adding those things to my diet.  I have bran flakes and Fiber One for breakfast once in awhile and Bran Buds with Greek yogurt and fruit (usually berries and citrus) for lunch during the warm months.  I can't seem to let go of cereal.

I know most of the problem with losing any weight, for  me, is my age.  Sixty six.  My metabolism has slowed down with age.  I don't run or play tennis.  I work in a physically active greenhouse, lifting plants, staying on my feet all day at work which is good for me.  I want to try yoga or Pilates to stretch my muscles and build up my core muscles (which might take care of the buttons on my pants problems) and take care of balance issues, but trying to fit it into my day hasn't taken priority as yet.  By the end of my days at work, I am very tired.

I have tried visiting low carb sites to find a solution or a suggestion that will help me move forward with the last 10 to 12 pounds of weight loss.  I would like to reach 160.  I was happy at that weight for many years.  I have read that we stall at a weight we have been before.  I want to stall at 160.  (smile) If anyone reading this post has experience with low carb dieting and has a suggestion--please comment.
I want this to work.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

House Work or House Warming

It's nice to have G home.  He purchased a patio door insulation kit yesterday when we stopped in to pay the $380 (monthly) oil bill.  Today he installed the plastic barrier to the windows that leak cold air the most.  We usually remove that smaller window on the right and install a window AC unit in the summer months.  The install/removal has significantly lowered the usefulness of the weather stripping.  This particular window is right next to the end of the dining room table where we sit to eat.  And shiver.  He's shrinking the plastic with my hair dryer.

I discovered that my readership increases  (new readers who Google) when I have an interesting title.  this one could be titled "draft dodging" or "home insulation tips"  or "cold weather strategy" and would generate readers who would be annoyed with the content.  So, Readers, if you have a blog--generate readership with savvy titles.

Today is SOUP DAY.  Two kinds.  Chicken Noodle for G and Bean and Escarole for me.  Both easy and both delicious.  My soup is not low carb but it is low calorie.

I am trying to mix it up, diet wise and keep calories down.  Not easy on a high fat diet.  I refuse to jump the fence and start eating wheat even though I am now VERY sure I am not allergic to wheat.  I am addicted to wheat but not allergic.  Same with Sugar.  I hardly have any health complaints.  The only real difference in my body following no wheat/sugar is that my ankles no longer swell up.  I still get dents in my ankle when I wear socks with tight bands, but that's all.

I will be wildly inappropriate right now (warning) in stating I do not and have never had the symptoms a coworker's partner described.  Loose bowels, horrible stinking farts and a burning, itchy butt hole.  Now those are symptoms of a Wheat Allergy.  As is joint pain and migraine headaches.  Not me.  And you can guess this partner is a 30 something male.

There are things I could now tell you about but I think I have said enough.  A few readers warned me regarding the sugar alcohols in SF chocolate bars.  All the above and more.  I stopped buying them.  And I stopped eating the farty cereal which had many kinds of seeds which I obviously had trouble digesting.  I often wonder, now that I no longer buy soy milk, if it was the soy milk and not the cereal? Allergies to soy are the worst.  It's in everything.

The new low calorie wheat and sugar free diet is going well.  Ankles are good.  Pants button easily. Sleeping well.  Not hungry unless it's time for me to eat.  I had a Royal Red Robin Burger yesterday for late lunch/dinner.  Wrapped in a giant bunch of lettuce leaves.  Plus a side salad.  And a side of mayo.  If Red Robin was here in my Town I would be driving there right now to have another one.  So darned delicious.  I love the egg.  I had three french fries with ketchup.    Breakfast was the very last of the fresh mozzarella and two unripe tomatoes with olive oil and Balsamic.  Lunch was two (possibly three) big spoons of peanut butter (600 calories) and dinner will be soup.  Learning Curve.  Hard to give up the fat.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Welcome To 2013

I haven't made any decisions yet.  None.  Aside from what to have for breakfast (bran flakes, Fiber One and cream).  G has taken Riley to the Vet office to see what that rashy spot is all about.  It's 6 degrees outside so if we go anywhere, Riley has to stay home.  Or he can go to Doggie Day Care and get a bath.  He smells a bit stronger than I like.  The kitchen up top is just about perfect.

Congress has done something I hardly anticipated.  The House voted on something.  Brilliant way to start the year.  But I think regular Americans need to think of ways to stop being so dependent on the government.  Here in my Town, I think property owners with street side property should have to shovel their sidewalks.  The Town shouldn't have a guy or two and expensive snowblowers shoveling.  Everywhere I lived, before the habit of having someone else do your work for you, we owned property with public sidewalks.  We cleared the sidewalks before clearing our driveway.  In Germany it was the law.  Our rental had sidewalks on 3/4 of the property and NO German would rent the house for that reason.  The house was called the American House.  And we used our American snowblower to clear the sidewalks.

G was thanked, recently, by the local fire department for snowblowing a path to the hydrant on our property.  The firemen had come to our street with shovels to do the job.  Our neighbors don't see it as being "anything that concerned them".  But if there had been a fire on the day or night of a big storm and instead of hooking up the hoses, the guys had to dig the hydrant out---- would that still not be in your best interest?

Lately I have been reading hate filled comments on the Social Security site I read.  Republicans deriding people for asking questions regarding collecting social security.  The comments are usually that people collecting are "welfare cheats" sucking the government dry.  When did Social Security become welfare?  Didn't I pay into it ever since I started working?  Didn't we all?  It's not my fault that politicians have balanced their budgets and paid for more battleships, wars and trips to Mars with loans from social security trust funds.  I never wanted more battleships, wars or trips to Mars.  Did you?

When did we give up personal responsibility?  When did politicians begin seeing the voting public as just a four or six year annoyance?   I really wish that the Occupy One movement had had a clear message. America needs a revolution.  As we are right now--well, I am dismayed and embarrassed by government on a daily basis.  From the Town level right here, to the state level with Maine's Tea Party Governor  and to the capital with these very rich old men trying to hold tight to the "prestige" not working for a living has gotten them while they collect the best in pension benefits and deluxe health care ---- but, no, that's not "welfare".  Ha.  It is.  They are the biggest welfare cheats.

Well, I have gotten that out of my system for a while.  And I did it without uttering my dad's favorite word.  Jackasses.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Looking Into The New Year - 2013

Riley has the best seat in the house.  The window.  The heater.  Pook.  The sun when it decides to shine.  And when "looking" wears Riley out, he can stretch out and take a much needed nap.

New Year's Eve was very different.  For the past five years, G has been doing "end of the month" paperwork on the last day of the month and the last day of the year.  Riley and I have spent all of Riley's New Year's Eves together.  Just the two of us.  So, we weren't quite with it yesterday.

Our favorite neighborhood restaurant was fully booked from 5pm on.  BUT, when I asked G to call back, they did have tables open at 4:30.  So we ate dinner very early.  And read our books until around 10 and then started watching a recording of the last Sherlock on PBS.  Then Riley started having some difficulty.  An itchy place on his belly he wouldn't stop licking or scratching.  It was raw and inflamed.  Holiday.  No vets to call.  The internet had some suggestions.  A hot spot.  Bacteria.  Antibiotics.

So.  After a lovely warm compress to clean the area, I applied Neosporin and then we sat with Riley and kept him from licking the area for about 45 minutes.  Long enough for the salve to penetrate and for the two Benadryl to work.  Yes, we gave the dog Benadryl.  This morning the spot is still inflamed but Riley isn't licking it.  He did wake me up in the darkness that is 6 am so I could  let him out and then serve him breakfast.  Then he went back to sleep.  No licking.  Or scratching with his back leg.

I have always believed that the year goes along as it begins.  Whatever you are doing at the end sets the tone for the year.  G and I calmly worked together to help Riley feel better.  Then we, all three, went to bed and slept well.  We are already getting into a routine of eating only twice a day.  Breakfast at around 10 and a late lunch/dinner at around 3 or 4.   A small dessert/coffee at around 7 or 8 for G.

Some trends that I hope change/improve in 2013:
Watching couples and families at the table in restaurants.  Each texting.  No one talking.

More Americans working together to make life better and less ugly bickering.  I have stopped watching the news.  And I shut the TV off as soon as I see John McCain.

Better colors in women's clothing.  The color for 2013 is emerald green.  Gag.

My preparation of an excellent minestrone.  I have lots of work to do on this.  My friend Patty makes an excellent minestrone and doesn't have a recipe to share.  She just uses what she has.  Always so very good.  Never the same.  I need to have better supplies in the pantry and fridge.

The daily art project.  I need one.  So many fiber artists have one.  Not always fiber related.  But something they do everyday.  Something portable so it can be taken with if you go on vacation, to doctor's offices etc.  Sketchbooks.  Embroidery.  Wrapped bundles of found objects on daily walks. Doodles.

I could also make a list of my breakfasts.  They get stranger and stranger.  Or draw them.

Along with these items I have the taxes, the new (2 years ago) window frames to prime and paint, I have a quilt to put together for my dear departed friend's granddaughter and I have ALWAYS (20 years and counting) intended to buy a new fridge.

364 days to go.